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Southwest thinks it could launch its long-awaited flights to Hawaii as soon as this year. In the company’s earnings call on Thursday, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced that the carrier’s plans to fly to Hawaii are on track from the airline’s end, and they could end up launching as soon as the end of 2018.

“I think there is a chance that we could be flying by the end of the year and that will be our goal,” Kelly said. “I’ll be happy [if it happens]. If we don’t, it won’t be the end of the world.”

If the Hawaii flights don’t launch by the end of this year, Kelly thinks Southwest will be able to begin operations to the 50th state in early 2019. At this point, Kelly said that when the carrier is allowed to begin operations is out of its control. But, in terms of what it does control, Kelly said that the carrier is “right on target.”

So, what’s the big hold up? Southwest needs to get approval from the FAA to operate the over-ocean flights, a process that could take one year or longer. The approval process, which is already underway, includes special training for flight crew and additional equipment for Southwest’s all-737 fleet of aircraft.

Southwest
Southwest’s Boeing 737 MAX 8.

Even if Southwest doesn’t get the necessary approval to begin operations in 2018, Kelly said that he’s confident the airline will begin selling tickets this year.

Southwest made news when it first announced that it would begin Hawaii operations in October 2017. Since then, there’s been little news as to specific routes and what fares would look like. However, we do know that Southwest’s Hawaii service will launch with its 737-800s before switching to its newest 737 MAX. In addition, the carrier has said that it will start with operations from California, a huge market for the low-cost carrier.

While we wait for more details on Southwest’s Hawaii operations, get caught up on the aircraft that it will soon be flying to Hawaii by reading this review of the 737 MAX 8.

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